The nineties were strange years. For a decade after history had purportedly “ended” a lot happened. The Soviet Union dissolved, seemingly in days and without a gunshot. A bloody war broke out between rival ethnic groups in the former Yugoslavia. The United States and much of the West were experiencing a burst of economic activity after decades of stagnation, and a revolutionary new mode of communication had emerged: the Internet. But running alongside the monumental was the downright absurd. Americans, it seemed, had not only grown prosperous in the years after the Cold War but also preposterous. In the midst of a government shutdown, the president of the United States ate pizza while he cavorted with an intern only slightly older than his daughter. The Internet turned out to be a blessing and a curse. Life felt diffuse, centrifugal, spread thin. We could trace a track-pad finger across the globe, and yet there was often nothing to touch, nothing to see, and nothing to feel. In an increasingly postindustrial age, our lives felt more and more disconnected, our labor more and more abstract. Billboard hits rang with paralyzed irony. “How bizarre”—as one particularly catchy refrain went—“how bizarre, how bizarre.”

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